Wednesday, August 7, 2019

Top 3 Things to Make the Mitsubishi Mirage More Fun to Drive

2017 Mitsubishi Mirage ES - Subcompact Culture

The 2014+ Mitsubishi Mirage isn't known to a be the enthusiast's choice or a "driver's car." However, there are a few things that will help turn this frugal runabout into more of a hot hatch.

When we bought our 2017 Mirage, it was brand new, all stock, and a fuel economy champ. However, its fun-to-drive factor was low. Sure it was versatile and inexpensive, but it needed more fun factor. These are the top three things we've done to our Mirage (aka The Rage) to make it more entertaining.

Rear Sway Bar

Daox Mitsubishi Mirage Rear Sway Bar installed
Photo via Daox
Adding a rear sway bar to a car can help to keep the rear end more planted and help to reduce body roll. And if there's a car that needed a reduction in body roll, it's the Mirage.
Mitsubishi Mirage rear sway bar
For our 2017 Mirage ES, I turned to the Mitsubishi Mirage Forum, and it turns out that forum member, Daox, makes a Mitsubishi Mirage rear sway bar. The construction is very good, it wears a black powder-coated finish, and includes hardware. Installation is super easy.

Once installed, I took The Rage for a shakedown run. What a huge difference! Gone was the tremendous body lean. Add to this better tires and upgraded springs (see below), and the car becomes a hoot to drive at its limits. Around corners, the car develops a hint of oversteer without the back end coming around too much; it rotates very well. This is a must-do to make the Mirage more fun in the corners.

Better Tires

Nankang AS-1 Tires 175/55/15

Speaking of corners, the Mirage's original 165/65R15 Dunlop Enasave tires are terrible for everything but eking out every last bit of fuel economy. They offer minimal grip at best, and the sidewalls are as flexible as an Olympic gymnast, but far less entertaining. So if you're looking to make your Mirage more fun to drive, a tire upgrade is necessary. But be careful, as this car is extremely sensitive to wider rubber. Let me explain.

I initially equipped The Rage with 195/50R15 rubber on 15x6.5" wheels with a 38 offset. However, this setup rubbed the rear fenders very badly, especially with a passenger—even at factory height. I considered rolling the fenders, but after doing some measurements, even that wouldn't help. In fact, the rubbing was so bad that I had to switch the rolling stock out for new wheels/tires. Also of note: My fuel economy took a big hit going from low-rolling resistance 165mm-wide tires to the sticky 195s.

I needed to go narrower. I initially thought a 185/50R15 might be good, but there is almost zero availability and I wanted to be 100% sure I wouldn't rub. From the factory, Mirage GT models come with 175/55R15 tires mounted on 15" wheels, and I decided I'd go that route. I selected a set of Nankang AS-1 all-season performance tires and mounted them on 15x5 (+45 offset) 5Zigen Pro Racer GN+ wheels I imported from Japan. This is actually a kei car fitment, but the Mirage is, after all, pretty darn tiny. The wheels look great and the tires are a huge step up from the 165mm-wide Dunlop donuts. Plus, there is no rubbing anymore—even with the car lowered (I'll get to that in a second). It's a much better setup for the street, and it's a great balance between handling and fuel economy.

Stiffer Springs

Eibach Pro Kit Springs for Mitsubishi Mirage

If you want to carve corners in your Mirage, you'll want to stiffen the ride up. There are two ways to go about this: lowering springs or a full coil-over kit.

Like most Mirage performance upgrades, it's slim pickings when it comes to suspension. A few companies do make lowering springs for the Mirage, and I opted to go with the Eibach Pro Kit springs. Eibach is a very well-known brand and has been in the spring business for decades. The springs aren't super stiff and only lower the car about an inch (25mm). Normally I'd replace the struts and shocks when lowering, but unless I import some KYBs from Asia, I'm out of luck. No one makes a replacement shock for the 2017+ Mirage. In speaking with Eibach directly, they said the Pro Kits work pretty well with stock shocks due to the minimal drop. I will say this: the ride is very compliant and still pretty soft, but it's certainly firmer than the stock springs, which I'm fairly certain are made with of an alloy of steel and grape jelly.

If you decide you want to go with an adjustable coilover setup, the only option I'm familiar with is from Godspeed, which offers some very pink 16-way adjustable dampers on their 52mm monotube shocks.

Honorable Mention: Weighted Shift Knob

Mitsubishi Mirage weighted shift knob

The Mirage's shifter isn't bad, but the throws are a bit long. So the first thing I looked at after getting the car was a short-throw shifter. Turns out no one makes one. However, another Mirage owner suggested adding a weighted shift knob in lieu of a short shifter's unavailability. Frankly, I'd never had a weighted shift knob on any vehicle before. But I was pleasantly surprised at the result.

Adding weight to a shift knob helps to increase kinetic energy and carry momentum into the next gear when shifting. It also felt more precise when shifting. The knob I bought via Amazon has a 450g weight and is 1.75" in diameter. I think it cost about $20. The particular model I bought isn't on Amazon anymore, but there are many similar models available there and through other retailers.

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